Stone Soup Cottage Cookbook Tasting
by Diana Davis
The evening sun shining brightly on golden autumn leaves set the scene for the Stone Soup Cottage Cookbook Tasting at Moulin Events (2017 Chouteau Avenue) on September 26.
Upon arrival, guests were ushered upstairs and presented with a glass of champagne and the beautiful cookbook. I greeted Stone Soup Cottage owner Carl McConnell, who invited me to proceed to the tasting sites set up around the room to sample some of his creations. An accomplished chef, Carl’s resume includes an apprenticeship at the Nordic Culinary School in Europe and long stints as head of the culinary operations for luxury travel companies like the Clipper Cruise Line and American Orient Express.
Before I even claimed my chair for the cooking demonstration, a uniformed waitress presented me with a tasty Rabbit Ragout with shelled fava beans in mini Phyllo cups, a promise of the unusual and delicious things to come.
Strolling around this charming exposed-brick loft, I visited the three stations tasting the chilled appetizer of asparagus on a tidbit of bread, topped with a buttery Hollandaise sauce flavored with a touch of dry flavorsome chardonnay; the Wild Mushroom Bisque with Fried Leeks and Sherry (the succulent star of the evening); and the wonton cup stuffed with butterscotch crème with a dark chocolate garnish formed in the shape of the Stone Soup Cottage logo. It was only the desire to behave in a decorous manner which dictated that guests turn away after only one silky sample as they muttered, “Ahhh, yummy!”
Carl officially began the program by giving thanks to God, the guests and to Left Bank Books, Moulin Events and Sauce Magazine for hosting the event. He introduced his produce growers, the Wiese Family; his cookbook designer, Amy Kaller; and the cookbook photographer, Carmen Troesser, as well as his children, Christian and Colin, and his wife and business partner, Nancy.
Nancy announced that Stone Soup Cottage is donating 20% of the proceeds from the cookbook to The Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Charles County, an organization introduced to them by their friend, Dianne Garrison. The cookbook includes the artwork of Boys Club member, 13-year-old Troy Palmer which depicts his interpretation of “Stone Soup” that he painted after he read the book at an after-school art program. Representatives from the Boys and Girls Club were also in attendance—President Mary Hannigan, Executive Director Gary Steinhoff, and his assistant Karen Kirk.
Carl demonstrated his culinary prowess with his first dish, Butterscotch Crème. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, he heated cream, brown sugar and a fourth cup of single malt scotch, added a bit more scotch, and smiled wickedly. He lowered the heat and brought the mixture to a slow simmer, cautioning cooks not to walk away at this point. The cream could bubble over, and that it is the very dickens to clean up off the stove. He dissolved cornstarch with a touch of water and whisked it into the hot cream until it was very thick. He suggests chilling it for at least four hours and serving it with fresh berries, i.e. blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
His second creation was a pot of Wild Mushroom Bisque with Fried Leeks and Sherry. Prior to the demonstration, McConnell tossed ½ cup of julienne chopped leeks in cornstarch then fried them in 400 degree oil until golden brown. At the stove, he heated olive oil, added garlic and mushrooms and gently sautéed them until they were soft but not browned. He added fresh thyme and sherry, reducing the mixture by half. After adding chicken stock, the mixture is covered and simmered for 30 minutes. He combined flour and melted butter and added it to the simmering stock, stirring it frequently and cooking it for another five minutes in order to allow the starch to incorporate into the bisque. He emphasized that a cook must do this final step or the mixture will taste grainy. He topped off the dish with salt and pepper and topped off the evening by signing the attendees’ cookbooks.
When you’re ready for a luxurious meal, think of the Stone Soup Cottage–but think of it months in advance. They are booking now for January 2012. Carl and Nancy serve special dinners Thursday through Saturday. The four course option is $49.95 and the 6-course option is $69.95. The Four Flight Wine Pairing is available for $35.
If you’re on a more limited budget or are ready for this luxury sooner, I suggest you purchase the Stone Soup Cottage Cookbook for $28.95 and prepare it yourself. While you are at it, you’ll be doing a good turn for the Boys and Girls Club of St. Charles. Bon Appétit!